ELLSWORTH — In a matter of moments, a crowd of 400 people at Del Luce Stadium went from ecstatic to stunned.
Minutes earlier, the Ellsworth boys’ soccer team had been on the offensive and appeared close to an elusive goal that would give it a win over visiting Mount Desert Island. The crowd could sense it, and there was anticipation in the air.
Just when that goal looked to be coming, the Trojans pushed the ball back the other way and found just enough space down the right side for a score of their own. The visitors — not the home team — were the ones celebrating.
The Eagles had left everything on the field and wanted nothing more than to beat their rivals in front of their home fans. Yet at the last minute, a chance at victory had evaporated into the cold, misty air that hovered above the field.
A goal with just under four minutes to play Monday night sent Ellsworth to a 1-0 defeat against MDI. The loss was the Eagles’ second in a row against the Trojans after the team had previously gone more than a decade without a defeat in the rivalry.
“These kids gave 100 percent,” Ellsworth coach Paul Lock said. “This game can be rough sometimes. … It just wasn’t meant to be tonight.”
Although Ellsworth had a slight edge in possession, both teams had plenty of opportunities throughout the first half. The Eagles had the first chance of the game less than five minutes after the opening kickoff, but a big save kept the game scoreless early.
With 22 minutes, 37 seconds to play in the first half, Ellsworth’s Sam Horne made a crucial clearance to send away an MDI shot that seemed destined for the back of the net. He was called into action once again three minutes later when he headed a hard-hit free kick away from goal.
An Ellsworth corner kick with 16:51 to play almost led to the opening goal, but a header from Zach Harris narrowly flew over the top-left corner of the net. The Eagles (3-3-1) came close to scoring twice more in the half via free kick, but it was to no avail.
The visiting Trojans (1-5) stepped up the offensive pressure early in the second half and had a long-range attempt by Nick Duley and a close-range attempt by Leao Nelson saved in the center of the goal in the opening minutes. Ellsworth peppered the MDI goal for the ensuing 20 minutes, but the Eagles’ attempts couldn’t penetrate the visitors’ stout defense.
Against the run of play, MDI found the breakthrough. Owen Mild found an opening down the right side of the field, ran into the box and fired a low-flying shot past Ellsworth goalkeeper Hunter Fernald for the game-winner.
Lock and his players were visibly disappointed after the game, but with plenty of games to be played, he told his players they had a chance to bounce back as they approach the second half of their schedule.
“I think we need to get more control in the midfield and get some more of those ground passes,” Lock said. “With our players, they just need to keep the locked-in focus they’ve had as a team this entire time. I think they can, and I think they will.”
The visitors have long known the difficulties of beating this Ellsworth program. MDI’s last win against the Eagles came at home last October, but the Trojans’ win Monday marked the first time the team has beaten Ellsworth on the road in ages.
“Ellsworth is a tough team with a great coach in Paul Lock, and they have great players and a great feeder system,” MDI head coach Tyler Frank said. “Whenever you can beat a team like that, it can do big things for your program. They’ll rebound from this one and be right in the thick of things.”
Ellsworth was scheduled to play Washington Academy on Wednesday. The team’s next game is at home against Presque Isle (3-1) at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 25.